It seemed to me that all over the world intelligent people were waking up to the indignity and absurdity of being endangered, restrained, and impoverished, by a mere uncritical adhesion to traditional governments, traditional ideas of economic life, and traditional forms of behavior, and that these awaking intelligent people must constitute first a protest and then a creative resistance to the inertia that was stifling and threatening us. These people I imagined would say first, We are drifting; we are doing nothing worth while with our lives. Our lives are dull and stupid and not good enough. Then they would say, What are we to do with our lives? And then, Let us get together with other people of our sort and make over the world into a great world-civilization that will enable us to realize the promises and avoid the dangers of this new time. H.G. Wells- The Open Conspiracy
So I had nothing to do today, and I decided, ‘ hey, I’ll go swing a sledgehammer at a hornet’s nest! ‘
and it goes like this…
When you look at the history of the internet you find, perhaps not so suprisingly, that a lot of the seminal guys involved in online media were also tied up in magick and conspiracy theory as well. Whenever some sort of dramatic new innovation is appearing chances are there will be some variation on the shaman figure cobbling it together in the background, whether he or she is conscious of that role or not. Sometimes they are very much so. Mark Pesce is one of them. And for our purposes, Joe is the other.
Now when you’re talking about one of the grand wizards of the internet, it’s hardly suprising that his presence online is pretty strictly managed, so it’s hard to get a lot of background on Joe, which is compounded by the games he likes to play with it, but there’s enough. I can visualize someone like us, back in the day, when the internet was first picking up steam, who for whatever reason is able to cultivate relationships with all kinds of delightful counterculture characters. I’m talking, in particular, Hakim Bey, Nick Herbert, Robert Anton Wilson, and Dr. Christopher S. Hyatt, among others.
Now I can’t track down all the sources anymore, but young Joe cultivated an interest in two particular esoteric fields. One was ‘metadata’ or what you might call the archetypal informational structure of the universe, what is sometimes called the akashic record. It’s not hard to imagine why an information technology student would be attracted to the idea that reality might have an underlying code. The other field was ethnomethodology, which is essentially the study of how people understand the world and implement that understanding.
Now let me step back for second. Maybe you’ve heard of Ong’s Hat? Maybe not, but the core documents are worth a read simply as entertainment. Now, if you’ve done that, read a little bit by Hakim Bey. The style of writing of the mysterious author of these conspiracy documents, and the elusive poetic terrorist are awfully similar aren’t they? Which makes sense, since Bey has essentially admitted to writing them.
Okay then. So what Joe does, back in the day, is to take that fictional seed, and use it in a kind experiment on the emerging culture of bulletin boards, now the internet. What you do is take the faux-conspiracy documents, and build up just enough ambiguous evidence around them that it becomes nearly impossible to sort what is real from what is not, especially when Joe can carefully manage what is fed into the emerging internet on the topic.
Now leaving aside the content of the Ong’s Hat mythos itself, Joe’s experiment seems to have blown up in his face a little bit. It appears he was subject to harassment, paranoid delusions, stalking, bizarre synchronicities which may have led him to wonder whether his ‘fictional’ story was as fictional as it seemed. Under these circumstances, it’s not suprising that Joe seemingly engaged in some pretty intense and heavy handed efforts to secure his privacy and sanity. Fair game, I say. But it doesn’t stop there.
I’ll leave OH for now, and concentrate on the Maestro. By the looks, he took what he learned from that experiment, for good or ill, and helped pioneer what is known as ‘alternate reality gaming’, using some of the same fictional themes in books as well, as well as cultivating a substantial resource base for his circle of friends and fans. He’s popped up as a facilitator for events with RAW, Bey, Rob Brezney, Genesis P. Orridge, and disseminated all kind of materials here.
And the metafictional media-hoax games continue. He’s right at the heart of the Poker Without Cards media blitz, and there’s no reason to doubt he’s a principal architect. It seems like a move to bring greater awareness of corporate/media manipulation into the mainstream, and to manufacture a latter Christian Rosenkreuz /Cogliostro figure to play with. Although the game is rather transparent by now, and probably only ‘works’ on the marks who fall prey to media as it is. So is the only way to wake people up, to punk them one more time?
As recently as 2002 he’s sat in room full of people and spent a couple hours fucking with them and treating them like ‘two-dimensional’ lab rats with his Ong’s Hat routine. Not that I’ve never done the same type of thing, or been tempted to play headgames with people, but when is enough enough?
It’s kind of like Discordianism. Some of the same people involved after all. It’s fake but it isn’t, but it is but it isn’t. It’s fun if you hold it lightly. It makes you think. It’s supposed to help free your mind. That’s what these people profess to be about, after all. Helping to free our minds, yes?
In some sense it’s like a recruiting scheme. As if one day, Joe or his friends will appear to you like Morpheus and offer you the red and blue pills. They want you to play the game and become an ‘extreme individual’ like them.By all means play the game, but don’t ever forget whose game it is…
addendum: I did want to add, on further consideration, that I do have a lot of respect and gratitude towards these people and everything they’ve done. I cannot guess where I would be without these people’s work. I simply felt it important to point out some of the duplicitous and manipulative nature of some of these activities. Not to take anything away from Joe or any of these guys. I just respectfully disagree with some of these tactics.